Amid turmoil, questions loom for SAP at Sapphire

The event is incoming sole CEO Bill McDermott's 'time to shine,' says one analyst

By , IDG News Service |  Software

You could look at SAP's recent flurry of eye-opening news -- high-profile executive departures, reorganizations and most recently, a layoff announcement -- as a negative thing, given they come just weeks before the company's big Sapphire conference in Orlando.

Sapphire is SAP's biggest opportunity to set out its agenda to customers and partners, and recent events could arguably prove distracting to that mission.

But looked at another way, Sapphire presents SAP with an opportunity to clearly explain its new path forward while the changes remain top of mind for customers, partners and industry observers.

Here's a look at some of the key opportunities for SAP at the event.

All eyes on Bill: Sapphire will mark the anointment of Bill McDermott as sole CEO of SAP, as co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe steps down and takes a supervisory board seat.

While SAP has used a single CEO structure before, McDermott will be the first American to take that role at a company that has certainly globalized but remains close to its German roots.

McDermott is known for his sales-savvy charisma and swagger, but should that be the approach he takes during appearances at Sapphire? One analyst says no.

"This is Bill McDermott's opportunity to shine," said analyst Ray Wang, founder and chairman of Constellation Research. "He has to come across authentic, empathetic and visionary all at once. He needs to introduce the team that will get them there and help customers bridge the past to the future."

He also needs to put an end to SAP's continual reorganization, according to Wang. "Customers can see that and they don't like it," Wang said.

"More importantly, he needs to help customers understand how SAP can be relevant again to their business and continue to go after line-of-business decision makers," he added. "This is not an easy task to do, but Bill's got the chops. It won't be easy, but it's only fair to give him some time."

Who's on the bench?: SAP put long-time executive Bernd Leukert in charge of product development after the abrupt departure of technology chief Vishal Sikka earlier this month. Sikka had been the champion of Hana, the in-memory computing platform that's at the heart of SAP's development efforts.

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